In an evaluation report published last month, the Council of Europe’s Group of States against Corruption (GRECO) called for Finland to strengthen its systems to prevent and detect corrupt behaviour in central governments—including the top executive functions—and law enforcement agencies.
Each year in Transparency International's 2017 Corruption Perception Index (CPI), Finland has traditionally scored high in its fight against corruption, meaning its risks of actual bribery are perceived to be low or non-existent. Recent public scandals, however, like the corruption scheme involving the Helsinki Police, whose police chief was jailed for drug smuggling, "have put into question whether what has been considered the most prominent instrument of Finland to combat corruption (i.e., trust) is in itself alone a sufficiently preventive anti-corruption tool," GRECO stated.
"The police is encouraged to strengthen its internal control processes to better manage corruption risks," GRECO added. "The Border Guard could also take the opportunity to engage in an inclusive dialogue within its ranks regarding its integrity policy and the way forward."
Additionally, Finland has yet to develop an overarching whistleblower protection system. GRECO recommended establishing clear standards of conduct for ministers and senior government officials.
GRECO stressed the importance of the government becoming "more proactive in developing its members’ awareness of their specific integrity challenges and in improving the management of conflicts of interest, all the more given the privatisation processes underway." It further called on Finnish authorities to strengthen procedures for holding government ministers legally responsible for law breaches.
Transparency International similarly observed Finland's declining state: "One of the most worrying cases in Western Europe is Finland," TI stated in a blog post discussing its 2017 CPI findings. "Traditionally viewed as the bastion of good governance and one of the top performers on the index, this year Finland’s score dropped by four points from 89 in 2016 to 85 in 2017."
TI said the drop in score "could be attributed to indistinct borders between public and private interests, where some people holding public office are not always maintaining a proper culture of recusing themselves from decisions that may affect them. With no regulations placed on financial disclosures or conflicts of interest for the head of state, this too may have a significant impact. An unwillingness of the Finish prime minister to respond to journalists’ inquiries about assets and investments caused a crisis situation and seriously damaged relations between the media and the government."
According to GRECO, an anti-corruption strategy is in the pipeline for the period 2017-2021 and awaits government approval, but political consensus on this matter has not yet been reached. "Its expedited adoption and subsequent implementation is needed." The implementation of the recommendations addressed to Finland will be assessed by GRECO in 2019 through its compliance procedure.